So much is at stake in writing a conclusion. This is, after all, your last chance to persuade your readers to your point of view, to impress yourself upon them as a writer and thinker. And the impression you create in your conclusion will shape the impression that stays with your readers after they've finished the essay.
The end of an essay should therefore convey a sense of completeness and closure as well as a sense of the lingering possibilities of the topic, its larger meaning, its implications: the final paragraph should close the discussion without closing it off.
To establish a sense of closure, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude by linking the last paragraph to the first, perhaps by reiterating a word or phrase you used at the beginning.
- Conclude with a sentence composed mainly of one-syllable words. Simple language can help create an effect of understated drama.
- Conclude with a sentence that's compound or parallel in structure; such sentences can establish a sense of balance or order that may feel just right at the end of a complex discussion.
To close the discussion without closing it off, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude with a quotation from or reference to a primary or secondary source, one that amplifies your main point or puts it in a different perspective. A quotation from, say, the novel or poem you're writing about can add texture and specificity to your discussion; a critic or scholar can help confirm or complicate your final point. For example, you might conclude an essay on the idea of home in James Joyce's short story collection, Dubliners, with information about Joyce's own complex feelings towards Dublin, his home. Or you might end with a biographer's statement about Joyce's attitude toward Dublin, which could illuminate his characters' responses to the city. Just be cautious, especially about using secondary material: make sure that you get the last word.
- Conclude by setting your discussion into a different, perhaps larger, context. For example, you might end an essay on nineteenth-century muckraking journalism by linking it to a current news magazine program like 60 Minutes.
- Conclude by redefining one of the key terms of your argument. For example, an essay on Marx's treatment of the conflict between wage labor and capital might begin with Marx's claim that the "capitalist economy is . . . a gigantic enterprise ofdehumanization"; the essay might end by suggesting that Marxist analysis is itself dehumanizing because it construes everything in economic -- rather than moral or ethical-- terms.
- Conclude by considering the implications of your argument (or analysis or discussion). What does your argument imply, or involve, or suggest? For example, an essay on the novel Ambiguous Adventure, by the Senegalese writer Cheikh Hamidou Kane, might open with the idea that the protagonist's development suggests Kane's belief in the need to integrate Western materialism and Sufi spirituality in modern Senegal. The conclusion might make the new but related point that the novel on the whole suggests that such an integration is (or isn't) possible.
Finally, some advice on how not to end an essay:
- Don't simply summarize your essay. A brief summary of your argument may be useful, especially if your essay is long--more than ten pages or so. But shorter essays tend not to require a restatement of your main ideas.
- Avoid phrases like "in conclusion," "to conclude," "in summary," and "to sum up." These phrases can be useful--even welcome--in oral presentations. But readers can see, by the tell-tale compression of the pages, when an essay is about to end. You'll irritate your audience if you belabor the obvious.
- Resist the urge to apologize. If you've immersed yourself in your subject, you now know a good deal more about it than you can possibly include in a five- or ten- or 20-page essay. As a result, by the time you've finished writing, you may be having some doubts about what you've produced. (And if you haven't immersed yourself in your subject, you may be feeling even more doubtful about your essay as you approach the conclusion.) Repress those doubts. Don't undercut your authority by saying things like, "this is just one approach to the subject; there may be other, better approaches. . ."
Copyright 1998, Pat Bellanca, for the Writing Center at Harvard University
Textual Analysis Essay
Length: 1500 words
Format:double-spacing, 1-inch margins, 12-point font
This paper assignment requires you to examine the arguments and presentation by one of the three authors from this unit (Peter Canby, Van Jones, and David Owen). Your assignment is not to agree or disagree with the author of the article you choose; your task is to evaluate the arguments, evidence, style, and authority presented.
Therefore, your thesis statement, or the main idea of your paper, will focus on the author's success in communicating his ideas: is he persuasive? A successful analysis will demonstrate a thorough understanding of the article. You are permitted to do additional research (always citing other sources), but only in the service of evaluating this piece, not in arguing over NAFTA, urban greening and criminal justice, or the role of technology.
Follow these basic steps for planning your text analysis:
- Print out, read and re-read the article, making comments and questions in the margins and on a separate page as you go. Look up any vocabulary you don't understand.
- Summarize the article briefly in your own words, including the author's main point or thesis. What questions is he trying to answer? This is helpful information in your essay's introduction.
- Examine the different types of evidence used by your chosen author: first-hand experience? interviews? studies and facts that can be verified? anecdotes or stories? visual aids? emotional appeals? reasoning based on what is known? Take note of especially effective or ineffective examples. As you develop your draft, address whether the article's arguments are sound, and whether the assertions and assumptions drawn from them are logical and clear.
- Your analysis should also evaluate the author's writing style and presentation. How is the article organized? Is the content presented in an order that makes sense to you as a reader? Is the writing objective and well-crafted? Quote any sentences that stand out or are representative stylistically. You can address the article's style as you evaluate its arguments, or you can discuss it separately.
- Check out the links in Unit 2 to read more about writing textual analyses: one from the Utah Valley State College Writing Center, and the other linked to the Social Science Computing Co-op at UW-Madison.
- Use the Rubric below to understand how you will be evaluated on the content and presentation of your analysis.
Text Analysis Grading Rubric
Title & Introduction
|Engaging, descriptive title. Introduction clearly addresses the main ideas of the article and whether it succeeded in conveying them.||Functional title. Introduction includes a description of the article that may be vague or under-developed later.||Title is unoriginal or not obviously relevant. Introduction contains no overarching sense of the article or a misunderstanding.||Title is cliché or irrelevant. Introduction is vague, unclear, or under-developed.||Title is absent. Introduction does not reveal the writer read or understood the article. Paper is not turned in, or is turned in late.|
Paragraphs all support the main idea, flow in a logical order, and are linked by topic sentences or other transitions. Multiple paragraphs per page guide readers from one example to the next.
|Most paragraphs appear to support the main idea although they may not always be linked with clear transitions. Paragraphs may merge together several examples or ideas that should be developed separately.||Some paragraphs lack any connection to the intro. and may not flow in any logical order. Transitions are spotty. Entire paper may be stuffed into a 5-paragraph format.||Introduction and/or conclusion missing; paragraphs ordered illogically, may be irrelevant. Few or no transitions.||Introduction and/or conclusion missing; paragraphs ordered illogically, irrelevant or repetitive. Transitions not apparent.|
|Every body paragraph refers to at least one example from the article. Any other sources are cited.||Most paragraphs include a relevant example or descriptive details from the article. Any additional sources are poorly cited.||A few examples from the article are raised in the paper; some may not be clearly relevant. Outside quotes are brought in but not cited and possibly not relevant.||Examples from the article are not clearly relevant or sufficient. Examples from outside the article are dubious or irrelevant.||Few or no relevant examples or details are furnished from the article or any other source.|
Grammar & Punctuation
|A few typos (1-3 per page).||Some errors are present, but do not distract from the essay.||A pattern of errors may appear, or scattered errors are apparent in most paragraphs.||More than one pattern of errors is present; mistakes are pervasive and cloud some parts of the essay.||Errors are pervasive and the entire essay is difficult to understand.|
|Conclusion reviews main messages or questions in the article and highlights your evaluation of its arguments and style.||Conclusion may sum up the point of the article but not evaluate it, or vice-versa.||Conclusion fails to provide clarity on the article or how its message was communicated.||Conclusion ends abruptly or introduces a new angle or topic not already raised.||Conclusion is nonexistent.|
Length & overall development
|Thesis fully developed. 1500+ (relevant, non-repetitive) words.||Thesis supported in most body paragraphs. 1350-1500 (relevant, non-repetitive) words.||Support for thesis not clear in most body paragraphs. 1200-1350 words.||Thesis missing or 1050-1200 words.||Under 1050 words.|